LIMA - The University of Northwestern Ohio men's and women's tennis programs have built a winning tradition during the brief five seasons of their existence. With the hiring of Phil Carlisle as the new head coach of the two programs, the belief is that success will continue and improve.
Carlisle comes to UNOH after a coaching search in which he was the primary target. He recently served as an assistant coach at Campbellsville University, a NAIA school in Kentucky. He is a graduate of Campbellsville and played three years of varsity tennis.
"When I spoke to (UNOH Director of Athletics) Chris (Adams) the first time, he explained how the program runs, the resources available here, he explained the area and how the school runs, with the racing and the automotive, but one of the things he really sold me on was the family environment, specifically between the coaches" Carlisle said. "It's just that kind of family environment, where everyone encourages everyone to have success and supports everyone to have success. That kind of atmosphere is very unique to me; it's not wide-spread in college athletics."
To hear the complete interview with coach Carlisle, follow this link.
For Adams, Carlisle's enthusiasm and pedigree played large roles in focusing on the 23-year old coach to succeed Terry Hilborn, who resigned in July.
"Phil did a super job during the interview process and comes to us highly recommended," Adams said. "He brings a tremendous amount of energy to the UNOH programs. We feel strongly that Phil possesses all the necessary qualities to keep the program competitive and moving forward in a positive direction."
While at Campbellsville, Carlisle was tasked with recruiting student-athletes, budgeting scheduling, organizing and leading team practices, on-court coaching during matches and even stringing rackets. He spent this summer working as an instructor at the Nike Tennis Camp at Pepperdine University.
As a player, Carlisle an All-Conference pick once and three-time All-Academic pick. He was named the Men's Tennis Champion of Character at Campbellsville in 2011.
He takes over a program loaded with talent on both the men's and women's side. The Lady Racers won the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference title last season, finished 18th in the nation and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament in Mobile, Alabama. They graduated only one player from that squad and return their top five singles positions and five of six doubles players.
"You're talking about bringing 1-through-5 back on a team that finished 18th, made it to nationals and won the conference, so that's a lot of talent to come back. I'm extremely excited to have those girls come back," Carlisle said. "We're going to shoot higher this year. We want to win the conference again, and we want to go back to nationals and we want to be a real threat to make some noise down there."
The men's side has two big holes to fill with the graduation of Juan Cardenas and Jeff Brown, the winningest player in UNOH history. However, with players such as Gustavo Rueda returning, Carlisle is confident the Racers can take the final step and advance to the National Tournament.
"That's a big hole to fill, but I know Gustavo and some of the other guys are high-level players," Carlisle said. "This team didn't have a bad season last year. They came very close to beating Aquinas, who was one of the best teams in the country, so I know that there's talent on the men's side.
"To me, it was a position, with the talent coming back, looking to improve on what they've done in the past, there's just a lot of opportunity here," he added. "There's a big potential for this team immediately, not in a building process that's going to take three or four years."
Carlisle will be joined on campus by new assistant coach Amelia Harris, who recently graduated from the University of Louisville and enjoyed a strong tennis career there as well. The two met at the Nike camp this summer, and Carlisle knew she would be the perfect assistant coach at UNOH.
"She's one of the very few people I've met who has a passion for tennis like I do, who loves the game, who loves not just the winning and the playing, but who loves to work, to get out, get in the gym, on the court and practice," Carlisle said. "She knows that the talent isn't going to win us anything that we have to put in the work. I guarantee there aren't two coaches in the country who will work harder than us."
With tennis' autumn season set to begin later in August, Carlisle and Harris have plenty of work to get caught up on in an extremely short amount of time. The first step is simply getting the team together, practicing and getting to know each other.
"We want to get in touch with all these players, meet all of these players as soon as we can," Carlisle said.